The All-Time Greatest Air Jordan 1s: Part Two
From recent collaborations with the likes of Virgil Abloh and Travis Scott, to the ‘Nike Air’—branded Retro High OG releases, and some of the most iconic colourways to ever grace footwear, the Air Jordan 1 is undoubtedly the most-beloved Jumpman model of all-time.
In honour of its G.O.A.T. status, we recently highlighted some of our favourite non-OG drops, including this year’s ‘Cactus Jack’ release, 2007’s China-exclusive ‘XQ’, 2014’s tribute to The Captain, and much more.
Below is the second and final part of our retrospective as we highlight 11 more of our favourite AJ1s to round out our definitive list of the 23 best Jordan 1 drops — not including the unimpeachable OGs, of course.
Levi’s x Air Jordan 1 (2008)Levi’s x Air Jordan 1 (2008)
Back in 2008, two giants collided when Jordan Brand and Levi’s joined forces for the aptly named ‘23/501 Denim Pack’ featuring the brands’ most iconic creations: the Air Jordan 1 and the 501. Limited to just 2,323 sets, the release paired a denim-constructed AJ1 — complete with bold red elephant print, matching leather, and gold accents — with a pair of 501s and corresponding t-shirt.
Just Don x Air Jordan 1 High Strap ‘BHM’ (2013)Just Don x Air Jordan 1 High Strap ‘BHM’ (2013)
Before he was creating his own Jumpman-emblazoned hybrids for the Swoosh, Don C was tapped by Jordan Brand in celebration of Black History Month. Released in February of 2013, this special high-top took cues from Just Don’s signature strapbacks and sported premium leather construction with a bold print that covered the entire upper. Only one pair of the black kicks ever saw the light of day, and were auctioned off to raise money for charity.
Union x Air Jordan 1 Retro High OG ‘Black Toe’ and ‘Storm Blue’ (2018)Union x Air Jordan 1 Retro High OG ‘Black Toe’ and ‘Storm Blue’ (2018)
Union’s Jordan 1s may only be a few months old, but they’ve already gone down as one of the best Jumpman releases of all time. What really sets these apart is the DIY aesthetic that Chris Gibbs and company put on the classic high-top, which includes zig-zag stitching, a pre-yellowed sole, and mashups of two different colourways on each pair. Special packaging and a corresponding retro-inspired apparel drop further cemented the colab’s status as one of the Jumpman’s best.
Dave White x Air Jordan 1 Retro High ‘Wings for the Future’ (2012)Dave White x Air Jordan 1 Retro High ‘Wings for the Future’ (2012)
When Jordan Brand launched its Wings for the Future program in 2012, it looked no further than renowned UK artist Dave White to help kick things off with a collaborative AJ1 release. While sneakerheads got a chance to cop an artsy spin on the iconic ‘Bred’ look, the Jumpman also auctioned off a patriotic red, white, blue and gold version of the star-studded kicks to further benefit Wings and Inglewood High School. That golden-toed make-up was limited to just 23 pairs.
Air Jordan 1 Retro High OG ‘Knicks’ (2013)Air Jordan 1 Retro High OG ‘Knicks’ (2013)
Knicks fans were finally treated to their own Air Jordan 1 in 2013 at the height of the Air Jordan 1 Retro High OG craze. Decked out in classic colour-blocking with a nylon tongue and ‘Nike Air’ branding, these came in the perfect combo of ‘Game Royal’ and ‘Team Orange’, with black lining and a contrasting white midsole to boot.
Air Jordan 1 Retro High OG ‘Shattered Backboard Away’ (2016)Air Jordan 1 Retro High OG ‘Shattered Backboard Away’ (2016)
After paying homage to an infamous backboard-shattering dunk from MJ during a 1985 European tour, Jordan Brand followed up 2015’s ‘Shattered Backboard’ AJ1 Retro High OG with an ‘Away’ iteration of the kicks in 2015. The kicks were one again inspired by the orange, black and white uniform that Jordan had rocked on the tour, but switched up the colour-blocking with a white toe box and additional orange hits to the toe bumper and eyestay. Like their predecessors, these sold out in the blink of an eye.
Spike Lee x Air Jordan 1 Retro High OG ‘Fort Greene’ (2017)Spike Lee x Air Jordan 1 Retro High OG ‘Fort Greene’ (2017)
Out of nowhere, Spike Lee took to Instagram in 2017 to announce the release of his own Air Jordan 1. Released on 16 June 2017 at Spike’s 40 Acres & A Mule headquarters in Brooklyn, the uber-limited ‘Fort Greene’ drop came in black and navy with a Mars logo on the upper, custom ‘⅓’ tongue branding, and the chance to get the kicks signed by Lee himself.
Lance Mountain x Air Jordan 1 Retro SB QS (2014)Lance Mountain x Air Jordan 1 Retro SB QS (2014)
The first Nike SB x Jordan Brand colab remains the best of the bunch. Released in 2014 as a nod to the Air Jordan 1’s place in late 1980s West Coast skating lore and the iconic The Search for Animal Chin video, the drop featured mismatched colourways that came complete with paint-coated uppers in either white or black. The paint would then slowly flake away with the usual wear and tear, giving each pair’s DIY aesthetic a truly one-of-a-kind look.
Air Jordan 1 Retro High OG ‘Origin Story’ (2018)Air Jordan 1 Retro High OG ‘Origin Story’ (2018)
Miles Morales rocked Air Jordan 1s throughout 2018’s award-winning Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse animated film, and Marvel and Jordan Brand did comic fans a solid when they actually dropped the kicks IRL. The ‘Origin Story’ release puts a Spidey-centric spin on the tried and true ‘Chicago’ look, adding splashes of blue to the tongue badge and outsole, alongside reflective dots across the red leather panels.
Air Jordan 1 Retro High OG ‘Carmine’ (2014)Air Jordan 1 Retro High OG ‘Carmine’ (2014)
Who doesn’t love when a classic colourway is taken from its OG model and applied to another icon? The Air Jordan 1 ‘Carmine’ is one of our favourite illustrations of the idea, as Jordan Brand took the best Air Jordan 6 colourway and applied it to the AJ1 back in 2014.
Air Jordan 1 Retro High OG ‘Letterman’ (2016)Air Jordan 1 Retro High OG ‘Letterman’ (2016)
In honour of MJ’s first-ever appearance on the Late Show with David Letterman back in 1986, Jordan Brand celebrated the 30th anniversary of the significant event with a ‘Letterman’ edition of the Air Jordan 1 Retro High OG in 2016. The ‘Light Crimson/Midnight Navy’ look took cues from the bold jumpsuit MJ rocked during the appearance, to create one of the most eye-catching AJ1s out there.
To know what else made the list, head to The All-Time Greatest Air Jordan 1s (Part 1).